Born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Phyllis Boltz grew up in a music-filled home, and sang in several different groups as a teen in the ’60s. She enjoyed her first national success during nearly a five-year tenure with Rain starting at the end of the decade, scoring with the a string of hits, including “Stop Me From Me Believing,” “Find Your Love,” and the top 10 “Out Of My Mind.” Comparisons of her to the likes of Debbie Boone and Karen Carpenter were instantly drawn, and she earned her spot as Canada’s top woman white soul singer.
But musical differences on where the band should be headed saw her leave by the spring of 1973, leading her to sign with A&M Records a year later. She released a 45 under her real name, but neither “Elijah Stone” or “More Than Missing You” made an impression. Still, the label execs supported more recording sessions with producer Harry Hinde, and after adopting the new monikor of Charity Brown, scored with a pair of top 10 covers as singles in ’74, starting with giving “Elijah Stone” another shot, this time as the b-side to “Jimmy Mack,” followed by “You Beat The Punch.”
She released her selft-titled debut solo album the following spring, and the next 45 was the still unreleased “Touch Me Babe” backing her fourth top 40 single in a year and a half – “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” written for her by Tom Baird. It was “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” that was supposed to put her on top of the charts. And although it reached the top 10, The Doobie Brothers released their verson of the song just prior to her album release, somewhat deflating her momentum bubble.
And unfortunately during that period, women-powered rock acts here weren’t as plentiful as today, so they very much had to compete on a world stage. And at that same time, Helen Reddy was scoring on the charts and crowding the market, pulling the rug out from under her. Still, she received her first Juno nomination in ’75, the first of three straight mentions in the Most Promising Female Vocalist category, but failed to capture the trophy.
“Anyway You Want” b/w the still-unreleased “Rocket Sweet” was the next single in the summer of ’76, preceding her sophomore album, STAY WITH ME. Written by Chicago’s Peter Cetera, the song struck gold, topping the Canadian singles chart for six weeks and fuelling a North American tour. With Hinde returning as producer, the album was a critic’s rave, expanding her sound and dimensions with the title track (a cover of The Faces’ song). Later that year, a string of new singles followed – “Saving All My Love” b/w “Family Man,” “Ain’t No Hurt Love Can’t Heal,” and “Forecast” (which also had “Rock Me Sweet” as the flip side.
More new recordings were in store in 1977 – the disco cross-over “Hold On Baby” and the top 40 Adult Contemporary hit “All The Things You Told Me.” THE BEST OF CHARITY BROWN followed before the end of the year. Her last mention at the Juno nominations was in ’78 for Best Female Vocalist, although she still came up short.Sessions were recorded for a third album, but disagreements with her management, as well as with A&M brass, kept the tapes on the shelf. Brown called it quits in 1980 after being relegated to touring extensively and exclusively on the bar circuit for a few years.
She tried her hand at several career changes throughout the ’80s, including the grocery business, as a florist, and as a costume designer, but the business came calling again when she and husband Ted Purdy (Mainline) opening a recording studio and independent label in the late ’80s. With Purdy co-producing with her, she released the new single “No Talk Talkin'” b/w “The Guardian Song” as a mildly successful comeback, after appearing in the odd club and festival over the years.
During the 1980s, Brown performed as a voice artist for Atkinson Film Arts TV specials and programmes including “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Dennis The Menace,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” and “The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin.” She also made a guest appearance on “The Alan Thicke Show,” and appeared with a number of top Canadian female recording artists on the CBC TV special “Anne Murray’s Ladies Night.”
After nearly three decades away from music, she began performing again in southern Ontario, including a performance at the 2007 Kitchener Blues Festival. Two years later, 30 year old tapes that remained her unreleased third album saw the light of day, when LOST TAPES OF ’79 hit the store shelves and bounced right back off.
Her full-blown reunion was christened with the critically acclaimed WINGS OF TIME in 2011, featuring remakes of “The Guardian Song” and “No Talk Talkin’,” as well as the new songs “I Like Your Soul,” “Only One For You,” and “Mr Twister.” Following a series of club dates around Toronto, she again slipped back out of the limelight and off the stage.